Published on 24 February 2016 by Telesur English
The Bolivian government promised its supporters Wednesday that it would continue to adopt progressive political policies, despite the outcome of the country´s national referendum.
"We may have lost a battle, but not the war," said President Evo Morales, referring to the national referendum results on presidential term limits, which prevents the Bolivian leader from running for re-election in 2019.
During a press conference Wednesday, President Morales acknowledged the referendum results but promised to continue governing in the “interests of the poor and marginilazied.”
In his speech, Morales accused right-wing opposition groups of launching a coordinated media campaign in efforts to undermine and discredit his administration.
"Some media outlets fulfilled the interests of political parties," Morales stated.
Moving forward, Morales announced that various high-ranking members from his administration will meet with leaders from Bolivian social movements in order to evaluate the political implications following the referendum outcome.
Official final results will not be announced until Thursday. However, with 99.5 percent of the votes counted, the “No” side holds a three percent lead over the “Yes” with 51.3 percent versus 48.7 percent.
Published on 24 February 2016 by Telesur English
Thousands of Argentine public sector workers have taken to the streets of Buenos Aires and will convene at the presidential palace Wednesday as part of a national strike to protest the neoliberal policies of President Mauricio Macri.
Macri has fired approximately 10,000 state workers since the beginning of 2016, with even more layoffs expected in the coming months as government ministries continue to review contracts.
Wednesday's national strike is being organized by the Association of State Workers, known as ATE, together with the Argentine Workers Union.
ATE President Hugo Godoy added that there would be marches and demonstrations in provincial capitals as well.
President Macri is ideologically disposed to reducing the public sector, arguing that private investment should be the source of new employment.
Published on 18 February 2016 by Venezuela Analysis
A whole packet of new economic initiatives will take effect in Venezuela this week after the country’s president, Nicolas Maduro, announced a series of far-reaching measures in response to the economic crisis on Wednesday evening.
In a five hour address to the nation on national television, Maduro explained the extent of the economic crisis afflicting the country as well as his government’s plan to tackle it.
The economic initiatives include changes to the country’s multi-tiered exchange rate, an increase in the domestic price of gasoline, the implementation of a new tax system, and expansion of community control over food distribution.
He also reaffirmed his commitment to continuing his government’s investment in Venezuela’s many public services known as the “missions”.
The far reaching reforms come after the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) moved to approve a state of economic emergency decree emitted by Maduro in January, overriding what it described as an unconstitutional attempt by the opposition-controlled National Assembly to block it.
Published on 17 February 2016 by Venezuela Analysis
Venezuelan authorities arrested 55 employees of the Abastos Bicentenario state supermarket chain Monday in the initial phase of a new anti-corruption operation aimed at the government-run food distribution network.
Codenamed “Attack on the Weevil”, the operation saw the mobilization of 965 National Intelligence and Military Counter-Intelligence officials targeting 53 supermarkets across 13 states and the capital district in an early morning raid.
“They have no excuse for betraying the public trust, and we are going to go after every last corrupt official that we find in each sector, the economic, political, social,” declared Interior Minister Gustavo Gonzalez Lopez, who is heading the operation.
The dozens arrested– including six store managers– have been accused of hoarding state subsidized goods and reselling them on the black market for personal gain in a speculative practice known as bachaqueo.
Authorities also confiscated extensive caches of hoarded food items, including 6.7 tonnes of corn flour, 10 tonnes of sugar, 864 kilos of pasta, and 840 kilos of margarine in one Caracas supermarket alone.
Published on 21 February 2016 by Telesur English
After three years of searching, Colombian forensic scientists have found over 28,000 unidentified bodies buried across the country, and the search is far from over.
“The program, The Search for Unidentified People in Colombia, has explored about 26 percent of all cemeteries in the country and we hope soon to make a clean sweep. We do not have an estimate of how many people we can find,” said the Director of Human Rights of the Interior Ministry, Maria Paulina Riveros, Saturday.
The search is part of a government initiative to locate disappeared persons after tens of thousands have gone missing, or been forcibly disappeared, in the over 50-year internal conflict in the country. The victims are often dumped in unmarked graves.
For those bodies that have been found, they will now go through a rigorous forensic testing period to establish the cause of death and their identities, according to Riveros.
The majority of the remains were found in cemeteries in the departments of Cundinamarca and Antioquia, which at one point were two of Colombia's most dangerous departments.
Forensic experts began the search for unidentified bodies after Colombia's left-wing opposition demanded in 2011 that a thorough census of the bodies be taken across the country after it was revealed that thousands were killed through a massive government human rights scandal called "false positives." During these years, soldiers killed thousands of civilians and dressed the corpses up in camouflaged fatigues to pass them off as guerrillas killed in combat in order to reap financial rewards from the government.
More than 800 soldiers have been found guilty in connection with the false positives atrocities so far.
The group of experts exhuming the bodies include a pathologist and forensic expert, a forensic dentist, an anthropologist, a geneticist, a photographer, a radiologist and a fingerprint expert.
The program is currently planned to run until 2019, in which time the government expects to search the whole country.
By Joe Emersberger. Published on 26 January 2016 by Telesur English
An Economist article published Jan. 19 states that poverty in Venezuela “has stayed stubbornly static since 2000.”
The blue line in the graph below shows World Bank numbers for poverty in Venezuela from 1999 to 2013.
Income poverty increased to over 60 percent by 2003 as result of a briefly successful coup in April of 2002 and a shutdown of the oil industry from December 2002 until February 2003. Both these acts of political and economic sabotage were supported by opposition groups funded by the U.S. government. Poverty, as shown in the graph, steadily declined after the government finally wrested control over the state oil company from opponents determined to overthrow the government. By 2013, the poverty rate had fallen by half. The Economist’s dishonesty in saying that poverty “stayed stubbornly static since 2000” is amazing, but such dishonesty about Venezuela dominates the international media’s coverage. The Economist need not fear being embarrassed by any high-profile rebuttal appearing in any Western newspaper or magazine at any end of the political spectrum.
Despite the serious economic problems of the last two years, Venezuela’s poverty rate is probably still significantly lower than its level in 2000, and drastically lower than what opposition sabotage had brought it to in 2003. Recall that we are discussing income poverty which does not account for government provided food, education and housing for low income people.
The Economist article also said that the “IMF estimates that Venezuela’s GDP shrank by about 10 percent in 2015, making it the world’s worst performing economy. The government admits the contraction was 7.1 percent up to the third quarter of 2015.”
We can forgive readers who don’t have time to check the Economist’s sources for concluding that the government has “admitted” a 7.1 percent drop in GDP in the first nine months of 2015. The 7.1 percent figure really covers an entire year: the third quarter of 2014 compared to the third quarter of 2015. The document the Economist cited actually said that GDP fell 4.5 percent in the first nine months of 2015.
Published on 24 January 2016 by Telesur English
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro has announced the establishment of a committee to oversee the creation of a revolutionary assembly Saturday.
The assembly will bring together the country's progressive social movements and socialist politicians to reinvigorate the Bolivarian Revolution, according to the president.
Later Saturday, Maduro oversaw the first meeting of an interim committee, which will lead to the creation of the broader people's congress, being called the Congreso de la Patria, or Congress of the Homeland.
Saturday afternoon 100 people were sworn-in to the committee, and will be in charge of mobilizing Venezuelans into the local assemblies, starting Sunday.
Venezuelan Vice President Aristobulo Isturiz said people will discuss four main things; new forms of organization, building a new cultural hegemony, building a new productive economic model, and diversifying methods of struggle.
The congress “can’t be a just closing ourselves in to debate, it has to take up public spaces and use all the different cultural and communication mechanisms (that we have).”
The committee is the result of weeks of community and grassroots social movement meetings across Venezuela. After meetings are held around the country, a national congress will be held on April 13.
Maduro called for renewed debate among Venezuela's progressives in the wake of the National Assembly elections in December. The right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) won a majority in the National Assembly.
“What we need is strengthened diversity of the grassroots,” said Maduro in after the December election results.
By Gregory Wipert. Published on 13 January 2016 by Telesur English
Following the Venezuelan opposition’s recent electoral victory in the Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, the opposition seems to be more determined than ever to steer towards an outright confrontation with the president. The goal is to destabilize the government as much as possible, with the aim of achieving his ouster before the end of the year.
The new National Assembly president said that his aim is to have a plan in place for president Maduro’s ouster within the first six months of 2016. Ramos Allup furthered this confrontation Jan. 6, when he swore in three opposition members as representatives, whose election the Supreme Court had previously put on hold due to electoral irregularities. On Monday, January 11, the Supreme Court thus declared that the National Assembly president had acted in defiance of the Court and that from now on all laws that the National Assembly passes are null and void, since the assembly had incorporated members into its body that should not be there.
The political confrontation between the legislature and the executive is thus programmed. The next conflict will be about the amnesty law, by which the opposition intends to free all so-called political prisoners, that is, all opposition figures who have been involved in violent protest of one kind or another, many of whom have been held responsible for deaths of innocent bystanders. Ramos Allup already warned Maduro that if he and the Supreme Court do not implement the amnesty law, he will begin removing ministers from Maduro’s cabinet: “Whether or not he accepts [the amnesty law] will not matter, to which we will say, ‘We do not accept his naming of ministers.’”
The options for the new opposition-dominated National Assembly to get rid of Maduro are several. As mentioned above, it can remove not only the ministers and the vice-president (though this could lead to new National Assembly elections if the vice president is removed three times in a row), remove the heads of other branches of government, such as the Supreme Court, the attorney general, or the National Electoral Council (with prior approval from either the Supreme Court or the attorney general), amend or reform the constitution (which then has to be submitted to a referendum), or call for a constitutional assembly (followed by a referendum).
Published on 7 January 2016 by TeleSUR English
Ecuador's National Assembly approved Thursday a comprehensive land reform aimed at improving agricultural production, the redistribution of idle land, and ending the concentration of land in hands of few.
Carlos Viteri, president of the National Assembly's Specialized Permanent Committee for Biodiversity and member of the ruling PAIS Alliance party, said that the proposed Land Law represents “a symbol of the transformation of the country
Viteri, an Indigenous Amazonian Kichwa, well known for his daily-worn crown made of toucan feathers, added the reforms would finally eliminate the legacies of previous land laws, which allowed a few families to concentrate ownership at the expense of campesinos and small farmers.
“The National Assembly has finally heard the demands of the rural sector, from the campesino, Indigenous, montubio, afro-Ecuadorean peoples and the small and middle producers in this country,” Jose Agualsaca, president of the Confederation of Peoples, Indigenous and Peasant Organizations of Ecuador, told teleSUR English. His group contributed to the development of the law.